There's good news for anyone who's thinking about buying a Super VHS videocassette recorder: Prices are coming down at last.
Ever since they were introduced two years ago, improved-picture S-VHS decks listed for $1,100 up and could seldom be found even at discount stores for less than $1,000. But in recent weeks, some Los Angeles-area stores have offered new models by JVC, Magnavox and others for hundreds less.
Case in point: Magnavox's Model VR9668. Though it doesn't boast every bell and whistle (no audio dubbing, for example), this VCR has Super VHS, hi-fi stereo sound, MTS decoding, HQ circuitry, indexing and bar-code programming. Like all S-VHS decks, it will play and record normal VHS tapes as well. The price around town on a recent check--$749 at Circuit City, $729 at Adray's and $595 at Star Club in Culver City. (Star Club also had JVC's S-VHS 5000U, which does have audio dubbing, for $700.)
That's not much more than normal VHS decks with all of those features except S-VHS. If prices continue to fall and enough buyers say, "Why not?," we may begin to see the fall of Super VHS acceptance's other main obstacle--the lack of pre-recorded material.
The release this week of "The Best of Gilda Radner" (Warner, $19.98) isn't a rushed response to the comedian's death from cancer May 20. Warner Home Video announced the tape two months ago. The 59-minute compilation of clips from "Saturday Night Live" follows similar packages spotlighting John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd. It features Radner's most famous characterizations, including nerdy teen Lisa Loopner and befuddled consumerist Roseanne Roseannadanna.
THIS WEEK'S MOVIES
"Bird" (Warner, $89.95, R) didn't make Clint Eastwood's day at the box office. Of course, the former mayor of Carmel only directed this filmography of saxophonist Charlie (Yardbird) Parker--he doesn't appear in it. Still, the low gross--just over $2 million--proved disappointing to jazz fans, especially after the success of "Round Midnight" in 1986. However, the poor showing at theaters may be followed by jazzed-up video interest; the film received several good reviews.
On the other hand, "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels" (Orion, $89.98, PG) scored big at the box office and probably will with summer-fun-minded renters too. The remake of the 1964 comedy "Bedtime Story" places Steve Martin and Michael Caine in the con-men roles originally played by Marlon Brando and David Niven.
The winner of the 1988 Academy Award for best foreign film, "Pelle the Conqueror" (HBO, $89.99, not MPAA rated), stars Max Von Sydow in a bleak look at life on a Danish farm. "Torch Song Trilogy" (RCA/Columbia, $89.95, R) is the widely panned film version of Harvey Fierstein's play. "Tapeheads" (Pacific Arts, $89.95, R) stars John Cusack and Tim Robbins in a satiric comedy a la "Spinal Tap" about two security guards who want to make rock videos.
Also out on video this week: "Buster" (HBO, $89.99, R), "Travelling North" (Virgin, $79.95, PG-13), "Eye of the Eagle II" (MGM/UA, $79.95, R), "Cohen and Tate" (Nelson, $89.98, R) and "Saturday the 14th Strikes Back" (MGM/UA, $79.95, PG).
OTHER NEW VIDEOS
Like your music video classical or non-classical?
If classical, then there's "Manon" (with Beverly Sills, 1977), "James Galway Plays Mostly Mozart" (1982) and "Isaac Stern, Itzhak Perlman, Pinchas Zukerman" (1980) from Bel Canto's "Live from Lincoln Center" series ($29.95 each).
If non-classical, there's a new tape by the kings of speed-metal, "Metallica: 2 of One" (Elektra, $9.98), containing two versions of the song "One," an eight-minute conceptual video and a five-minute performance. And coinciding with the new rock filmography "Great Balls of Fire" is the hourlong concert film/documentary "Jerry Lee Lewis: I Am What I Am" (J2, $19.95).